The Impact of China’s Social Media on Print and its Transition to the Digital Era Accorder to Former GQ Editor
« In China, I feel like today no one is really creating good content on print media »- 练自强/ Liàn Zìqiáng
On July 27th we met Liàn Zìqiáng , the man behind the media account; 乌云装扮者and previous fashion editor for GQ China who provided solutions for GQ’s Internet content Operations merging it with the traditional magazine gives us his opinion on China’s social media impact for print magazines.
On July 27th we met Liàn Zìqiáng , the man behind the media account; 乌云装扮者and previous senior fashion editor for GQ China who provided solutions for GQ’s Internet content Operations merging it with the traditional magazine gives us his opinion on China’s social media impact for print magazines.
According to the current transformation and wave from traditional media to digital media, media today are forced to reinvent themselves into a more tech format. Moreover, because of the lack of labour in the media departments and cutting costs, most traditional media departments have merged digital (Wechat and Weibo) with the print department.
Trend Oriented Society
Even the fact that GQ，Self, Elle, Vogue, and other key media are focusing on trends such as « 小鲜肉／young fresh meet » boys in order to gain more traffic just because its the hottest trends for media, it’s maybe not the right strategy for the long term with respect to the magazines image. For example, GQ’s brand is the mature international successful man etc. Moreover, the people who are loyal to buying print media do not necessarily want to see these young boys, they are buying the magazine in order to understand something more in depth, discover something new or find a professional angle to a topic.
Tech Trends and SM
“These past two years are probably the hardest and roughest times for media, many of my media friends, I’m seeing today already have grown white hair! How’s this possible?!Actually, before these editors were trained on only creating in depth print media content with a longer length of time, all of a sudden they have also been handed digital content which plays a much faster role on content seeding and information filtering. But the hardest part is this; studying new technological always of communicating at an extremely fast pace.” says Liàn Zìqiáng .
Vintage VR Photo
Many senior editors are very mature and not lacking of any type of resources (i.e brand PR connections, agencies, celebs etc.) to fulfill their projects effectively. Especially around 40-50 years of age for senior editors, this is very challenging for them, in general around this age people tend to be more conservative and relcutant to high changes, where now in order to survive they are forced to study and master these new SM/tech trends in the market.
Today many Chinese media want to jump on the vast SM band wagon where they believe they can effectively drive Wechat , vlogging apps (直播), Weibo platforms. However today VR and AR have also become hot trends amongst China’s mass audience where this also needs to be “desperatly kept up with”. This is very hard on most media；meanwhile they are focused on keeping up with the trends, understanding and digesting how they work, they also need to create at a fast pace diversified daily news/content. By the time they start successfully operating wechat, another communication platform becomes the hottest trend of the season that “cannot be overlooked” (i.e VR and Vlogging).
An opinion on this is that this may eventually dilute an editor’s core work to something that is not necessarily their expertise or even their core work. Before key renown stylist and editors became very highly recognized in the industry because they specialized in one thing and one thing only making them become icons and masters in their specific field (i.e editing, shooting, and or styling). In contrast, now we are going into VR, SM portals, Video production, O2O, vlogging and more instead of focusing on one thing, especially content. How can rich sustainable content still exist, especially if traditional media have also transformed themselves in daily news media and “digital agencies” all at the same time.
Print Media on Vlogging Apps
Can a strong consistent focus on one specific thing create a higher chance for success? I’d think so.
Moreover, in China, why isn’t there anyone looking at contributors, columnist and print content in general?
In America, people with the highest stance for opinion amplification in general are professional columnists and contributors, but in China this is not looked upon at all. In America, there are bloggers in diverse professional industries who really do have a profession in cooking, arts, culture and so forth, but here, we have an overly large diffusion of bloggers that can be really at its “lowest” for, who will really be reading a column today in China is not as influential as the west due to the trust and credibility created between the audience and the blogger. This is probably one of the biggest difference in terms of KOL’s, between the east and the west as many contributors in Europe and America and have grown to be extremely successful bloggers by being columnists.
With new media merging with the print department content is now fighting against time. We can receive immediate and quicker content via the SM platforms, KOL’s instead of waiting one month for older news on monthly print. KOL’s are still important today because we need an opinion, however the most important aspect of KOL’s is not content but who chooses to endorse the KOL’s, the brands and their fans.
Moreover, a special trait in the fashion industry is that the rules and standards of work are unique to each one of us he explains. “An easy example is the following, I may only have +30K followers on my Wechat and I personally think I write very well, however I think blogger B definitely doesn’t write well at all but he has +100K fans!” . This is an example of Internet standards where we are all seeking for certain standards, our standards. “Maybe 2 years ago, if you were showcased on the front cover of first tier media it was a standard undisputable proof that you have become iconic ‘ have made it’ in a way, however today I don’t completely agree 100%. In general most people in China go on the front covers now for a different reason, its to have the highest quality editorial photo shoots and contents which is still traditional media’s strongest unique selling point, even today. There is currently no selfie media,bloggers who can reach this level yet” he further emphasizes.
Media have some of the best people to write, edit, shoot, but if the content is not able to monetize, it becomes irrelevant as content needs to generate high amplification and credibility in order to cover the costs of print. We can create hard adv, advertorial content with brands/ crossovers, or leveraging on bloggers/KOLs to retweet the content in order to further amplify but how far can we go with bloggers?。。。
Now is it really worth is doing a Wechat official account?
Today with what regards media, the biggest exit to keep surviving is the official Wechat account. If media think « I started the Wechat and I’m not able to get alot of fans, shouldn’t I just wait for the next digital trend to come and be ready for that one instead ? » Actually, if you don’t have the base and tech knowledge to go forward to the next steps, and are not even able to create a healthy Wechat platform, how do you think you can go towards a more complicated tech platform ?
Hence, I think Wechat is fundamental for media.
What does this mean for the future of print ?
Media environment in China is currently very bad, we are highly focused on superficial celebs and wanghongs’ with no concrete in depth information, most creative ideas, videos, and shoots are still comes from the west.
“People are no longer able to focus on true print anymore, they have become daily reporters and tech account executives/managers due to the importance of wechat platform and SM where they are increasingly using these wanghongs to drive their content instead of branding it on a long term – and this counts for both for print and online media” says Liàn Zìqiáng
Today machines are now available to automatically filter targeted information such as hotnews/ trends/ celebs/red carpets in order to prepare strong content seeding. Hence most of the information that media use now is usually secondary information, seeded from other platforms. Due to the pressure in time, editors now rarely interview people like before, instead they go on the Internet to filter out information and put several different articles combined into one (like a recap), I don’t think this is real journalism. As a consequence, we end up having over-redundant “hot” news and trends on multiple channels at the same time. Before, many key editors were invited overseas to participate in activities, brand experiences, new restaurants etc, but now most editors will not receive this chance in the future, especially for new media, this will also block them from having a broader international experience as a journalist.
Understanding with Liàn Zìqiáng, the challenges for media to balance effectively their recourses between tech and traditional is vital not only for their survival, but the way print is managed and leveraged as well. Creating richer/valuable content is also necessary to stay on print media, else what is the value of buying and reading print? Today we are so soaked into this fast paced ‘techtainment‘ SM environment we even forget to speak with our friends at the dinner table and take our phones as our BFF’s. Sometimes, focusing on what were really good at is the key to excel and continue growing. What do you think?
Photos taken from the internet, original content